Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. The condition or quality of being necessary.
  • n. Something necessary: The necessities of life include food, clothing, and shelter.
  • n. Something dictated by invariable physical laws.
  • n. The force exerted by circumstance.
  • n. The state or fact of being in need.
  • n. Pressing or urgent need, especially that arising from poverty.
  • idiom of necessity As an inevitable consequence; necessarily.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The quality or state of being necessary, unavoidable, or absolutely requisite.
  • n. The condition of being needy or necessitous; pressing need; indigence; want.
  • n. That which is necessary; a requisite; something indispensable.
  • n. That which makes an act or an event unavoidable; irresistible force; overruling power; compulsion, physical or moral; fate; fatality.
  • n. The negation of freedom in voluntary action; the subjection of all phenomena, whether material or spiritual, to inevitable causation; necessitarianism.
  • n. Greater utilitarian good; used in justification of a criminal act.
  • n. Indispensable requirements (of life).

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The quality or state of being necessary, unavoidable, or absolutely requisite; inevitableness; indispensableness.
  • n. The condition of being needy or necessitous; pressing need; indigence; want.
  • n. That which is necessary; a necessary; a requisite; something indispensable; -- often in the plural.
  • n. That which makes an act or an event unavoidable; irresistible force; overruling power; compulsion, physical or moral; fate; fatality.
  • n. The negation of freedom in voluntary action; the subjection of all phenomena, whether material or spiritual, to inevitable causation; necessitarianism.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The condition or quality of being necessary or needful; the mode of being or of truth of that which is necessary; the impossibility of the contrary; the absolute character of a determination or limitation which is not merely without exception, but which would be so in any possible state of things; absolute constraint.
  • n. As applied to the human will, the opposite of liberty.
  • n. In philosophy, the inevitable determination of the human will by a motive or other cause. This is only a special use of the word in the free-will dispute. In philosophy generally, by the necessity of a cognition is properly meant a cognized necessity, or universality in reference to possible states of things; although some writers use the word to denote a constraint upon the power of thought.
  • n. A condition requisite for the attainment of any purpose; also, a necessary of life, without which life, or at least the life appropriate to one's station, would be impossible.
  • n. Want of the means of living; lack of the means to live as becomes one's station or is one's habit.
  • n. Extreme need, in general.
  • n. Business; something needful to be done.
  • n. Bad illicit spirit.
  • n. Synonyms Necessity, Need. Necessity is more urgent than need: a merchant may have need of more money in order to the most successful managing of his business; he may have a necessity for more cash in hand to avoid going into bankruptcy.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. the condition of being essential or indispensable
  • n. anything indispensable

Etymologies

Middle English necessite, from Old French, from Latin necessitās, from necesse, necessary; see necessary.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English necessite, from Old French necessite, from Latin necessitas ("unavoidableness, compulsion, exigency, necessity"), from necesse ("unavoidable, inevitable"); see necessary. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • If the failure of mills and furnaces causes men to be thrown out of employment, the remedy is to be found, not in the revisal of the measures that have produced these effects, but in the exportation of the men themselves to distant climes, thus producing a necessity for the permanent use of ships instead of canal-boats, with diminished power to maintain trade, and every increase of this _necessity_ is regarded as an evidence of growing wealth and power.

    The slave trade, domestic and foreign Why It Exists, and How It May Be Extinguished

  • [Sidenote: Necessity creates an exception, and the Revolution a case of necessity, the utmost extent of the demand of the Commons.] "My Lords, the concessions" (the concessions of Sacheverell's counsel) "are these: That _necessity_ creates an _exception_ to the general rule of submission to the prince; that such exception is understood or implied in the laws that require such submission; and that _the case of the Revolution was a case of necessity.

    The Works of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke, Vol. 04 (of 12)

  • Now in the works of nature the good end and the final cause is still more dominant than in works of art such as these, nor is necessity a factor with the same significance in them all; though almost all writers, while they try to refer their origin to this cause, do so without distinguishing the various senses in which the term necessity is used.

    On the Parts of Animals

  • If there be any meaning which confessedly belongs to the term necessity, it is _unconditionalness_.

    A System Of Logic, Ratiocinative And Inductive (Vol. 1 of 2)

  • Bat the term necessity here is, I think, too strong an one.

    Literary anecdotes of the eighteenth century; comprizing biographical memoirs of William Bowyer, printer, F. S. A.

  • So, making (well, declaring) a virtue of what he called necessity, he imposed an aggressively progressive income tax increase.

    Jim Florio's Left Jab

  • In a brief interview, Lipsky confirmed that he wrote it, and explained what he described as the necessity of demonstrating diverse backing for the measure.

    An Easy Guide to Racial Politics on the Council

  • I'm talking about [passage indistinct] what I call the necessity of being informed, of all the [words indistinct] that must be transmitted to the rest of the country, that knowledge and those experiences.

    GRADUATING MEDICAL STUDENTS

  • We attribute this regularity of action to what we call the necessity of things, as determined by the nature of the atoms and the circumstances in which they are placed.

    Unconscious Memory

  • Some understand it of their charity to the saints in necessity, which is one branch and evidence of

    Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume VI (Acts to Revelation)

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